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(TFT) Reality vs. Game Mechanics

We know that what makes for a good game does not have to be realistic. And one of those things is weapons. For TFT, it makes sense that you can use a weapon that deals more damage if you have a higher ST. And it adds to the flavor to give those different levels of weapons names. It also makes sense in game terms that weapons that do more damage weigh more and cost more. But is it historical?

Not really. Let's look at some swords... The TFT rapier does 1D damage, requires an ST of 9, weighs .5 kilograms, and costs $40. Hmm, only about a pound, huh? Steel's approximate density is about .28 lbs./in3, or 7850 kg/m3. That comes out to about 3.93 cubic inches. That works out to a bar 1/2" X 1/4" 31 inches long. Not very impressive, right? Sure, you can get some more length with taper and such, but you'd lose that when you took some of that weight to make a guard. By contrast, let's take the weapons in the book Prunkwaffen (or, as the English version has it, Fine Arms And Armour Of Dresden). None of the weapons in that book classified as rapiers weighs less that 1.5 kg. And none of them has less than 36" of blade. The heaviest is 2.5 kg, but that one is a definite oddity (an extending rapier with concealed dagger). Several of the blades are more than a meter long. So old SJ isn't batting well against history there. Now let's take the broadsword. In TFT terms, it's a 2D weapon, requires an ST of 12, weighs 2.5 kilograms, and costs $80. So it weighs about 5 lbs. My historical example is a Scandanavian weapon dated to the 10th century. I handled it while at a seminar held at Albion Arms, where Chris Poor, the curator for the Oakeshott collection, had brought several period (as in historical artifact) weapons for us to handle (that's part of the mission of the collection). It was right around a pound and a half. It really was only about 1/8" thick. Not impressive in the slightest. And the late 16th century basket-hilted sword was only about 2 lbs. So again, history isn't on his side. The axes really don't fare much better. Part of the reason to use an axe is that it uses less metal than a sword (not the only one, but a part. The same applies for spears). The single example I've handled, another Scandanavian artifact, but this one dated 12th century, weighed just over a pound. It does seem as though adding a 3 pound handle to that head to make a TFT small ax is rather silly. The one thing he does appear to get right is the length of a halberd. The books I own with measurements of those (mostly from the 15th through 17th centuries) puts the lengths at right about 7 feet, or a little more. Unfortunately, those references don't include weights. But the correct replicas I've handled do not weigh 17.6 lbs. The poleaxe, as used in the 14th century onward through the armour period doesn't really appear in TFT at all. The pike ax is no substitute if it's longer than a halberd. Anyway, the poleaxe is usually about 6 feet long, though there's some variation, with a hammer or ax head on the front, hammer or spike on the back, spear point, and point or iron cap on the butt end. They also often had small, circular guards near the head and butt (similar to a Japanese tsuba). And if you think that medieval European combat is just thugs bashing at each other, read Sidney Anglo's translation of Jeu de la Hache, and you'll think otherwise. I bring up the poleaxe because it's an example of a weapon where the writing of the period shows its use, especially as a wrestling weapon. It's also a two handed polearm, which we've been discussing lately. (as an aside, my modern French is passable, and so I can read the original well enough to see that Anglo's translation is decent at the least.)

So, as I've said in the past, I only require that my game systems have consistency, not reality. TFT mostly has that consistency, even though it is counter to reality. And if you want to dispute my figures, go to the Oakeshott and handle the weapons for yourself. Or Dresden.
Neil Gilmore
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